Leadership / Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders / The journey continues...

Becoming a Mandela Washington Fellow – Part II

The selection emails came in March/April 2020 when the whole world was on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, our trip to the U.S. was postponed to 2021.

Fast-forward to 2021, nothing much had changed except the world dealing with new variants of the COVID-19 virus. We were advised that we would now be attending the Fellowship virtually. I was so disappointed, my chance to travel to the U.S. for the first time had been snatched by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were given the option to accept or decline the virtual fellowship. I gracefully accepted because I knew I had a lot to learn.

But before I share my Virtual Mandela Washington Fellowship experience, let me take you back to the day of the interview.

I didn’t have a car and so I needed reliable transport to get me to the interview early. As one actor from The Blacklist once said, ‘Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable’. When I got mugged early in 2019, the neighbor who had assisted me became a good friend and she offered to take me to the interview. A friend then offered to pick me up since his interview was two days after mine, so transport was all sorted. I’m grateful to these friends who made my trip to and from the interview smooth.

The interview was great! I walked in with my Portfolio of Evidence, a file of documentary evidence of my vision, goals, achievements, among other things. I learnt about the Portfolio of Evidence during my time at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (now Nelson Mandela University), and I even got an award for creating exceptional portfolio. I went all out for it and poured in all my creativity into it. I also took with me copies of my published tax guides. I went there to really sell myself. And I’m happy I succeeded at it.

Back to all things virtual. The Fellowship ran for 6 weeks in a virtual format. I was placed at Northwestern University for my Leadership Institute in Business and Entrepreneurship. I was well prepared to actively participate and I gave it my all. In the third week, we had an open week where we didn’t have any scheduled sessions. It was a period to catch up on previous weeks’ work.

I really used it to catch up because the second week into the Fellowship, I had a mental breakdown. I took the week to rest and reboot before I could play catch up on anything. I got my mojo back in time for the fourth week of the Leadership Institute. I managed to finish the Fellowship strong! During that same week, I volunteered with Junior Achievement Chicago where I presented on navigating the corporate world. It was a pleasure putting the presentation together with a colleague from Lesotho.

An extract from the slide deck on our presentation topic, Achieving Meaningful Visibility within your Organisation.

Even though I didn’t get the chance to complete the Fellowship in person in the U.S., I’m glad that I participated virtually. I learnt a lot and in my next post, I will dwell more on the lessons from the Leadership Institute.

Bye for now and stay inspired to your ultimate emergence.

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I am a weird and wonderful young lady who loves beautiful things. I love writing because as Anne Frank puts it, "Paper is more patient than people".

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